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10 composition tips for better photography

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by David Em
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Composition in photography is how you arrange elements in the frame. Learn the most impactful composition tips to take better photos.

Person in dress looking to the side.

The composition of a photograph is an effective way to become a better photographer.

Composition is the organization of subjects and elements to create an eye-catching photo.

Related article: What’s flat lighting in photography?

It’s the best way to separate your photos from other photographers.

The following covers the best composition tips that you can use right away.

Keep in mind that the composition tips are an excellent place to start.

But photography is an art, and there aren’t hard and fast rules. So, use them as a guideline to improve your photos.

Related article: 11 tips to take the perfect profile picture

1. Rule of thirds

Man sitting on a mountain and holding a camera with a 3x3 grid.
The rule of thirds is a classic composition tip that places your subject on a third of the frame. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

The rule of thirds is a guideline that breaks the frame into thirds. It divides the image into nine equal parts.

The four points where the lines intersect are the points of interest.

To use the rule of thirds, position the subject on one of the intersecting points.

When you take a close-up portrait, position one of your subject’s eyes on the points.

It’ll create a natural and visually-interesting photo.

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2. Leading lines

A man walking down an alley.
Leading lines draw attention toward the main subject. Photo by David Em/Portraits Refined.

Leading lines guide a viewer’s eyes towards a subject.

The lines can be literal or implied. Also, leading lines can be straight or straight.

Walls, paths, railings, water, and buildings, are a few of the many leading lines you can find around you.

It’s one of the best composition tips because it’s subtle yet powerful.

Grayscale of a woman sitting on a dock.
The horizon goes right through the subject’s head. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

If a horizontal line in the background goes through your subject’s head, the image will look off.

It’s also known as spearing, which distracts the viewer from the subject.

Related: Understanding balance in photography

The solution is to keep your subject’s head above or below the line. If there are many lines, keep your subject’s head between them.

Anytime you photograph portraits, check the background.

Stop spearing, and you’ll see improvements in your photography.

4. Shoot from a different angle

Top down image of a man holding a camera.
Make your photos more interesting by changing the angle. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Add interest to your photos with different perspectives. If you take photos from a straight-on angle, try a high or low angle.

Before pressing the shutter button, look at the scene and try other viewpoints.

With different angles, you’ll capture unique and striking images. It makes your photos stand out, and you’ll be more creative.

5. Lead room

Woman holding a camera with text overlay.
Lead room gives the image a natural flow and feel. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Lead room is the negative space in front of your subject in the direction they’re facing. It’s also known as leading space, breathing space, or nose room.

Without lead room, the image portrays feelings of tightness or restriction.

Lead room is an essential aspect of any image where a subject is moving or facing the left or right.

It gives your photos a sense of direction, motion, and a natural flow.

6. Rule of odds

Silhouette of three lifeguard towers with text overlay.
The rule of odds states that a group of subjects in odd numbers look better than even numbers. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

The rule of odds states that viewers prefer odd numbers over even numbers.

Whenever you take a photo of a group, stick to odd numbers because it’ll be more pleasing to the eye.

The rule of odds works for photos of people, animals, nature, and things. But, it’s not the best technique all the time.

An example is engagement photos. The purpose is to photograph a couple so you won’t use the rule of odds.

Use it to arrange objects into odd numbers without making the photo look off.

7. Change the depth of field

Camera settings for aperture with text overlay.
Capture variety by using different depths of field. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

The depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest part of a photo that’s in sharp focus.

To change the depth of field, change the aperture or f-stop.

A larger f-stop number is a deeper depth of field, meaning the zone in focus is larger. The converse is also true.

In your photography, you must use different depths of field to tell a story. It also makes your image more compelling.

Use a shallow depth of field to blur backgrounds and a deep depth of field to capture edge-to-edge sharpness.

8. Fill the frame

Grayscale close-up of a man.
Fill the frame to make it clear that your subject is the most important part of the photo. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

When you fill the frame with your subject, a viewer focuses on the main point of the image.

To fill the frame, you must get close to your subject or use a lens with a long focal length.

In post-processing, you can crop the image to fill the frame.

When there’s limited space around your subject, you remove all potential distractions.

Use the fill the frame composition technique to make your subject stand out.

9. Triangles

Man kayaking with text overlay.
Triangles aesthetically group three points in a photo. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Triangles are dynamic and powerful shapes. They can make an image feel stable or unstable.

In almost every photo you take, there are triangles. Use it intentionally to become a better photographer.

An excellent way to use triangles is to combine three points of interest.

It provides a sense of balance and works well with other composition techniques.

Another way to use triangles is to capture shapes.

You can find implied or literal triangles almost everywhere you look.

10. Frame within a frame

Greyscale silhouette of a person walking with text overlay.
Frame your subject within a frame to add depth and dimension. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

The frame within a frame concept came from artists and is an excellent composition tool.

Use framing to add depth and dimension to your photos.

Find objects, shapes, or lines in your photo to act as a frame for your subject. Then, make sure your subject is in sharp focus.

The framing technique requires more thought, time, and patience because you need to focus on your subject’s position.

It’s worth the effort, as the photos you capture using the framing technique will be stunning.

It also draws a viewer’s eyes to your main subject.

Conclusion

To become a better photographer, use composition to make your photos stand out.

A well-composed image is dynamic, compelling, beautiful, and creative.

Remember, the composition techniques are starting points. You can break the rules and get creative to capture even better photos.

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Featured photo by Unsplash.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

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About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.

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